Only in Atenas, Costa Rica

Years ago, I mentioned to someone that I should write a book on all of the things that happen “only in Atenas”. This is a very special town that I call home and although it boasts the claim of the “Best Weather in the World”, I feel it has the Best People in the World.  These are just a few of my stories.

One day I was walking by the BCR bank in Atenas, when I saw an elderly gentleman come out of the bank and a gust of wind caught him by surprise.  Money went flying in every direction.  It was like a cloud of colones (the local currency) being thrown around.  People came rushing in every direction and I stopped to see what would happen.  They all gathered up the money and gave it back to the old man, even crawling under cars to make sure the last bill had been collected.  I’m pretty sure that in many places, people would have been pocketing that money but not here.  Only in Atenas.

When my daughter was just a baby of 2 or maybe 3 months old, I was walking in the neighborhood where we lived.  I slipped on the gravel in the road and fell with her in my arms.  I had no more hit the ground, when four neighbors came out to check on us.  Not speaking a word of Spanish at that time, they confirmed that we were okay and one of the ladies brought out honey and started smearing it all over my daughter’s forehead where she (luckily) had only barely touched the ground, with my elbow having received the majority of the impact. I had no idea that honey has both antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties, but I knew it wasn’t going to hurt her.  When it was explained to me later, I was impressed and so touched by the care that these people had given to a perfect stranger.  Only in Atenas.

Now, I have been here many years and I am always surprised and happy that it can take me 20 minutes to cross 3 blocks because of all of the people who come out to greet me and see how everything is going.  Only in Atenas.

We put together an Angel Tree project (now in its 12th year) and it quickly grew to over 300 needy children receiving gifts each year.  The expats who live here are a strong base, but it always impresses me that the locals who give gifts make up half of the donors and they will start asking me when the angel tree will go up so they can go and pick out the child that they will sponsor.  People are so giving and they told me that they enjoy the project and are just happy to know that it is a project they can trust in to go to those in need.  Only in Atenas.

We had a visiting group from the United States recently and the director of the group left a tablet in the plaza where the basketball courts are.  When they called me 30 minutes later to have me go and look for it, I knew they were crazy.  There was no way I would find the tablet still sitting there.  But I went back to look.  Of course not.  No tablet to be found anywhere.  I informed the director and he was sad, but knew it was his fault for forgetting it.  That same evening, he was contacted by Facebook by the man who cleans the plaza and asked him if he had lost his tablet.  The man had been trying to find him and finally asked his daughter to look him up (the name was on the inside of the cover) and see if they could return it to its rightful owner.  It still wants to make me cry.  Only in Atenas.

For each of these stories, I have a hundred more.  Of course, there are some other towns which I am sure would do the same things, but for us, each time we experience this, we just shake our heads and say…only in Atenas.

Tina Newton has been a resident of Atenas, Costa Rica for more than 17 years now and is owner of Tristan & Newton Real Estate with her business partner, Cecilia Tristan.  They are both always open to answering any questions about living or visiting Costa Rica. Feel free to add your own wonderful experiences.  Visit their website ,  Facebook page , or send an email with any questions you might have.




Do you need residency to buy a house in Costa Rica?

No, you don’t.  Anyone can purchase a home with their passport or local identification (cedula).  However, living here on a tourist visa can be a hassle as you have to leave the country each 90 days and then return on a new tourist visa which is normally automatically renewed for 90 days for North Americans or Europeans.  Unfortunately, it is up to the agent at the counter for the length of renewal and you might assume you were renewed for 90 days and then look at it later and see only a 60 or even a 30 day renewal.  The government is also always threatening to crack down on “perpetual tourists” which are those that constantly enter and leave on a tourist visa.  It hasn’t really happened yet, but it’s always good to be prepared.

There are a few different ways to qualify for residency.  In my case, I was married to a Costa Rican and qualified in that way, but if you are not, then you have the “pensionista” or “rentista” options in which you must show a monthly income of $2500 per month or you can be an “inversionista” which means you have invested at least $200,000 in the country.  This can be in a business or by buying a home.  As I was writing this, a new Tico Times post just popped up on Facebook with the same general topic, so I’ll share the link here.

Applying  for residency requires some patience, but it’s much less stressful if you bring the needed documents in advance and if you have a trusted lawyer to file it all for you.  You will need your birth certificate, your marriage license, and a police report which need to be apostille or certified by the State Department office in your area or certified by the consulate.

Finding a great lawyer is a must in Costa Rica because basically all documents and processes require a lawyer in some way, including every property transaction.  You can also set up your own Costa Rican corporation which is very beneficial if you aren’t currently a resident.  For other processes, you might not need a lawyer, but having someone to represent you who speaks the language can make these tasks, such as opening a bank account, a lot easier.  Once you have gone in and tried to understand the logic and requirements in opening an account, you will understand completely.

Tristan & Newton Real Estate is always glad to help with all of the home purchasing and selling decisions and make everything go as smooth as possible.  Any questions you might have about real estate or living in Costa Rica in general, just email Tina or check out the website for more information.  For any legal or residency issues, Cecilia Tristan with Tristan & Newton and the law firm, Gomez, Tristan, & Tristan, is always available and enjoys guiding people through the process.  Both are bilingual (Spanish and English) and can help you in whichever language you feel more comfortable. 



What is Your Heat Index?

Coming to Costa Rica is just coming to Costa Rica, right?  Nope.  Costa Rica has many different styles of living and climates.   If you are thinking of coming to Costa Rica, you should visit the country, many parts of it.  You have to determine what is right for you.  Think about what you need in your life to make you happy.  It’s extremely important to look at the positives as well as the negatives so you can make a decision that is right for you.

The Beach!!

dolphin-6Everyone who wants to come to Costa Rica wants to live on the beautiful beaches, but the reality might not be ideal for everyone. Costa Rican beaches are amazing and the views are spectacular, but you have to remember, the beach is HOT.  So, if you are a person who doesn’t appreciate the heat, this area may not be for you.  The disparity in incomes is more obvious as you have the ocean-front mansions next to small, local homes.  This disparity often creates higher crime areas, so home protection is very important.  Also, beach communities are usually more transient with tourists coming and going and the community there to support this business.  beach-shotFinally, the beach areas are remote in the sense that if you have to do paperwork in the capital, you can be 2-6 hours away and healthcare facilities are also further apart.  On my recent visit to Guanacaste, I was surprised that as much as this area has grown, you may have to drive quite a distance to get to the gas station or a major supermarket.  Sounds discouraging, but if you really love the beach and all it has to offer, then this is for you.  There are some truly spectacular beaches and being immersed in nature is still possible.  On the other hand, if you like easy convenience and a real community feel, then check out some other options.  



Okay, so if you aren’t into the heat and prefer the cooler weather, Costa Rica has that as well. Heading up in altitude will cool you down.  The areas of Monteverde, Tilaran, and Poas in the north or Dota, San Isidro, and San Vito in the south are higher in altitudes where the quetzals fly.  The weather tends to be cooler with more rain.   I’ve often gone during a crisp day, thinking “THIS is my weather.”  But then I remember that with the rain comes a lot of cloudy days and chilly nights and I get chilled easily. 20160110_113026 (Copy) However, for someone who loves to cuddle up around a fireplace in a sweater after a beautiful sunny day, it’s perfect and, again, Costa Rica is small, so a trip down the mountain will warm you right up.  The community aspect also tends to be stronger than in the beach areas because people live there year-round.   Again, you have to decide for good and for bad, what you enjoy.

Major City

Convenience!  00q0q_1zsbcd5nfal_600x450Yes, everything from malls to fast food to great medical care.  Oops, and the traffic that big city life brings.  Security also becomes of primary importance.   If you like everything right around you and the action of it all, then city life is for you.  If it seems stressful and overwhelming, look somewhere else. 


Small Town

20160229_083028If you are looking for the welcoming community feel with an immersion into the culture, small towns are the places to look.  These are places where people have lived all of their lives and know everyone, and everything, that everyone does.  Remote?  Some are, and some could be as close at 15 minutes to the big city. You can even combine a small town up in the mountains outside of Heredia which gives you easy access to the city without living directly in it or a central town like Atenas that is 45 minutes to the center of San Jose and an hour to the closest beach for vacations.  20160906_092856.jpgOkay, I’m a small town girl, so you might see my preference, but small town life is not for everyone.  Some people need more action or to be on the beachfront or completely isolated.  That is not for me to decide, that is up to you.  But it is important to know that about yourself and check out these different areas before you make a permanent decision.  You don’t want to invest a lot of money in one environment, just to find out that in 6 months, this was a bad decision for you.

We, at Tristan & Newton Real Estate never want to push you into anything that isn’t right for you.  “Names to Trust…Homes to Cherish” is our motto.  We are happy when we find that perfect home for you and helping you determine the right home is part of the job.  We have fabulous homes all over the country and we work with other real estate agents to find the right home for you if we don’t have it listed ourselves.   Feel free to contact Tina at for any questions about living in Costa Rica and check the website and Facebook pages for more information.cecilia-y-tina